The three trails in the Grand Canyon that receive the most traffic are the South Kaibab, Bright Angel and the North Kaibab trail. Trail heads for the Bright Angel and the Kaibab Trail are located at the South Rim while the trail head for the North Kaibab is located on the North Rim.
All three trails are well maintained and provide awesome views of the Canyon. The Bright Angel and the Kaibab trail accommodate not only hikers but mule trains as well.
If you are considering a hike on any of these trails make sure you have proper footwear. Many tourists will hike down a mile or two in street shoes and they end up with major blisters and aching feet. Also, make sure you allow twice as much time hiking up the trail as it takes you to hike down. Remember, it’s the reverse of mountain climbing. The ‘hard’ part is hiking out.
Bright Angel (Elevation 6860)
This is the most conveniently located trailhead and is just a few hundred yards west of Bright Angel Lodge. Many visitors will hike down 1.5 miles to the Mile and a Half Resthouse. There are outdoor toilets and an emergency phone located at this resthouse. It’s a good place to take a break, adjust your backpack and have a snack or lunch.
The rest house is also a popular turn-around spot for tourists that are just visiting the rim. The three mile round trip affords some great views but isn’t too strenuous.
This is the most hiked trail for those ascending the Canyon from Phantom Ranch. The trail is very steep and follows along an inner canyon. The advantage of this trail over the South Kaibab is that there is shade and cover. Water is available on the Bright Angel Trail at the One-and-a-Half-Mile and Three-Mile Resthouse. You can also get water at Indian Garden (Elevation 3,800) which is 4.6 miles from the trail head. This is a very beautiful trail with cottonwoods and great views of the geologic formations.
South Kaibab Trail (Elevation 7,200)
This trail is the choice of many hikers that are on their way to Phantom Ranch. The trail is shorter than Bright Angel and a hiker at an average fitness level can make it to Phantom Ranch in 4-5 hours.
The trail is totally exposed to the sun as it runs along a ridge line so it’s important to take adequate amounts of water. There is no water on this trail. The best time to hike this trail is early Spring and late Fall as the temperatures in Summer can reach the low hundreds.
Many experienced hikers use this trail to hike out of the Canyon. The trail is steep but again, it’s much shorter than the Bright Angel Trail and if you’re in a hurry, this is the best way out.
The South Kaibab trailhead is located at Yaki Point which is just off of the Desert View Drive. You’ll start your hike at 7,200 feet. Phantom Ranch is 6.9 miles from the trailhead and you must cross the Black Bridge across the Colorado River to reach the Ranch.
Like the Bright Angel Trail, this one is also well maintained and you’ll be able to follow all the rock formations as you descend into the canyon. Don’t be surprised if you see mountain goats and California condors as you hike.
North Rim Trail (Elevation 8,240)
This is the only maintained trail from the North Rim and is only open from May-November. The trail runs 14 miles from the trailhead to the Colorado River. The trailhead is located two mile north of the Grand Canyon Lodge. The trail closes when the snow starts falling in early winter. Even though this is a well maintained trail, the traffic here is the lowest between the three trails because of it’s seasonal access and the long drive it takes to get to the trailhead.
The Grand Canyon is easy to get to from Phoenix and Flagstaff. Many others visit from Las Vegas. How to visit the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas is an article we wrote that shows maps and driving directions from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon. It’s a bit of a long drive but well worth it.